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Old April 29th, 2011, 02:10 AM   #1
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Hair light position to stop bald forehead reflections

Where do you position the hair light for a male with little of no hair? The traditional position on a boom above the head caused a big shiny reflection on the where the forehead meets the top of the head. I tried moving the hair light onto stands to the sides, nad got uneven light and still some reflection off the chrome dome.

I ended up putting the hair light on the ground behind the subject because I was running out of time, but that didn't put any light on the top fo the subject's hair, so it blended into the back background.

Where do you put your hair light on bald guys to stop the specular reflection?
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Old April 29th, 2011, 03:14 AM   #2
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Re: Hair light position to stop bald forehead reflections

I'd tend to use a diffused back light rather than a hard one and make it subtle rather than a full on rim light effect. The best light position can vary depending on the shape of the person's head and how you wish to portray them, trial and error would be the best method to fine tune it. However, a 3/4 back light works for quite a few men.
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Old April 29th, 2011, 04:20 AM   #3
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Re: Hair light position to stop bald forehead reflections

Some light make-up will also help!
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Old April 29th, 2011, 05:43 AM   #4
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Re: Hair light position to stop bald forehead reflections

Yes, make up really helps with those shiny bits.
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Old April 29th, 2011, 10:36 AM   #5
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Re: Hair light position to stop bald forehead reflections

If the background is condusive to it -- a studio situation, perhaps--highlight the background and let the head go darker to provide the tonal separation....
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Old April 29th, 2011, 11:08 AM   #6
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Re: Hair light position to stop bald forehead reflections

Agreed on Battle's suggestion. It's very hard to avoid reflections on bald heads, which will provide their own separation against a lighter or darker background.

If you must backlight for whatever reason, try a wide soft source like a fluorescent tube and bring it as low as possible until it gets in the frame or causes flares. This will create a rim light effect but the actual reflection of the light will be so far back on the head (hopefully) that it won't create a hot spot.
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Old April 29th, 2011, 11:35 AM   #7
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Re: Hair light position to stop bald forehead reflections

I was going to suggest "Krylon Dulling Spray" but the talent might object

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Old April 29th, 2011, 12:16 PM   #8
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Re: Hair light position to stop bald forehead reflections

We had an issue with bald-head shininess due to the talent sweating. The other talent said to rub antiperspirant on and it worked like a charm! Makeup artist confirmed and said that it helps the makeup not go away as fast!
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Old April 29th, 2011, 04:14 PM   #9
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Re: Hair light position to stop bald forehead reflections

Good suggestions all.

My personal approach is typically to fly a separate flag and set it to cut the backlight off the top of the subject's head while leaving the rim light full below the hairline and on the shoulders. I like this because to my eye, it subtly reads as light IS coming from behind, but NOT off the head - which is a weird kind of "anti-bald" visual clue.

This presumes two things. A background that naturally contrasts with the scalp skin tones of the subject, and a stable sit-down style interview setup without much motion.

Just another possible way to solve a common problem.
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Old April 29th, 2011, 04:38 PM   #10
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Re: Hair light position to stop bald forehead reflections

In addition to using a colored light on the black background, I use a barn on the hairlight and position the edge as high up as possible on the back of the head before creating a "ping pong ball" reflection. In this setup, the hairlight is a 250w Lowel Pro at about 50% intensity with a sheet of diffusion on a Lowel gel frame.

It's not perfect, there's some reflections from the Key (Lowel Rifa 44) and Fill (Altman Micro par).
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Old April 30th, 2011, 12:40 AM   #11
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Re: Hair light position to stop bald forehead reflections

Portrait studios used to use something called a "head screen", a kind of "flag" or "scrim" attached to a stand with a "gooseneck" that allowed precise adjustment of the "head screen" position to block the portion of any light beam hitting the bald head of a subject.

Don't know if it is still available, I couldn't find much with Google search.
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Old May 4th, 2011, 01:35 AM   #12
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Re: Hair light position to stop bald forehead reflections

Great suggestions here. And apologies for all the typos in my original post, I was tired after that shoot!

Avoiding the hairlight altogether by adjusting the background illumination for separation sounds like the easiest solution to the problem. But flagging the reflection is a good trick to know when there is enough time and motion stability.

FYI I was using a relatively diffuse source (12"x16" LED panel just a few feet over and back of the head) and still got a huge reflection.
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Old May 4th, 2011, 11:23 PM   #13
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Re: Hair light position to stop bald forehead reflections

Understand that if you're using an LED fixture as a backlight, NONE of these flagging solutions are going to work for your problem.

The way LEDs work, each separate bulb has it's own spread factor, so when you cut the light with a flag or barn door, instead of a clean shadow line, all you accomplish is turning the fixture into something akin to an illuminated venetian blind.

To get a proper "cut line" using an LED, you'd have to fly the flag so far from the instrument and so close to the head, that it would almost surely be visible in the scene for anything other than a VERY tight shot.

A traditional tungsten fresnel fixture is a VASTLY better rim light solution if you're dealing with a bald subject because you CAN flag it off the scalp while maintaining a smooth spread for the sides of the head and the shoulders.

Horses for courses.
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Old May 5th, 2011, 10:54 AM   #14
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Re: Hair light position to stop bald forehead reflections

I've done portrait lighting for still photography and the first and most obvious thing is to understand is a hair light is used to give separation between the head/background and to add dimension to the hair. Hair lights are not intended to light the subject rather to give highlights. Classic example is a person with raven black hair, shot in front of a black background will have to have a hair light. Sometimes you can avoid using a hair light by using a light colored background or a background light.

The proper technique is to position the light on a boom above and behind the subject, slightly angled towards the camera making sure not cause lens flare or cast a shadow on the face. The spread and direction of the light is tightly controlled by light modifiers such as grids, barn doors. Diffusers also can reduce glare.
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Old May 6th, 2011, 03:57 PM   #15
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Re: Hair light position to stop bald forehead reflections

I like Don's suggestion the most, haha :p

I use a Litepanels SolaENG 3 LED Fresnel with a diffusion gel slid into its gel holder and then a Dedo 12" Translucent Diffusion
Dedolight 12" Translucent Diffuser DFT30 B&H Photo Video

And a Dedo collapsible filter holder that attaches to the light stand. I use a Frezzolini AC to D-tap power adapter to power the Sola when I can or a v-mount battery when no AC power is available. I chose this setup instead of Arri 300w fresnels because I can use these lights anywhere anytime as I have 2 SolaENG 3's and one Dedo LEDzilla for a nice 3 light kit (and to supplement my Kino's).
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